The Lord High Chancellor of Ireland (commonly known as Lord Chancellor of Ireland) was the highest judicial office in Ireland until the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. From 1721 to 1801, it was also the highest political office of the Irish Parliament: the Chancellor was Speaker of the Irish House of Lords. The Lord Chancellor was also Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of Ireland. In all three respects, the office mirrored the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain.
There is a good deal of confusion as to precisely when the office originated. Until the reign of Henry III of England, it is doubtful if the offices of Irish and English Chancellor were distinct. Only in 1232 is there a clear reference to a separate Court of Chancery (Ireland). Early Irish Lord Chancellors, beginning with Stephen Ridell in 1186, were simply the English Chancellor acting through a Deputy. In about 1244 the decision was taken that there must be separate holders of the office in England and Ireland. Elrington Ball states that the salary was fixed at sixty marks a year, equivalent to forty pounds sterling. Although it was twice what an itinerant justice was paid at the time, this was apparently not considered to be a very generous amount: Richard Northalis, Lord Chancellor 1393–97, complained that it did not cover even a third of his expenses, and asked for an extra payment of twenty pounds a year.
In the earlier centuries, the Lord Chancellor was always a cleric, and usually an Englishman. Lay Chancellors became common after the Reformation, and no cleric was appointed Chancellor after 1665, but although there were a number of exceptions, the Crown retained a preference for English-born Chancellors until the mid-nineteenth century.
Lord Chancellors of Ireland, 1186–1922
- Stephen Ridell. Appointed in 1186. (first Chancellor)
- Thomas Cantock, Bishop of Emly (1306–1308). The same as the above.
- Adam de Wodington (1308). The same as above.
- Richard de Beresford. Deputy in 1307, Chancellor in 1308
- Walter de Thornbury, died 1313: while he was travelling to Avignon to secure his election as Archbishop of Dublin, his ship was sunk in a storm and he drowned.
- Stephen Riddel (c. 1313–1318).
- William FitzJohn, Bishop of Ossory (1318– 1320). Later Archbishop of Cashel.
- Roger Utlagh, Prior of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Kilmainham. Appointed in 1321.
- Adam de Lymbergh (1330–1334)
- William, Prior of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Kilmainham (?1331–)
- Alexander de Bicknor, Primate of Ireland (c. 1335 – ?1337)
- Thomas Charlton, Bishop of Hereford (1337–1338).
- Robert de Hemmingburgh (1338–)
- Robert de Askeby (1340–)
- John L'Archers, Prior of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. Appointed in 1343.
- John Morice. c. 1344-1349
- William de Bromley, Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin
- John de St Paul, Archbishop of Dublin (1350–1356)
- Richard d'Askeaton (1356)
- John Frowyk, Prior of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (1357–1359)
- Thomas de Burley, Prior of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (1359–1364)
- Robert de Ashton (1364)
- Thomas le Reve, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore (1367-1368)
- Thomas de Burley, Prior of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (1368–1371), second term.
- John de Bothby (1371–1374)
- William Tany, Prior of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (1374–1377).
- Robert Wikeford or de Wikeford, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland (1377–1379)
- John Colton, Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral(1379–1382). Later Archbishop of Armagh.
- William Tany, Prior of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (1382–1385). The same as above.
- Ralph Cheyne (1383-4)
- Alexander de Balscot, Bishop of Ossory (1385–1388).
- Robert Preston, 1st Baron Gormanston 1388
- Richard Plunkett (1388–1393)
- Richard Northalis, Bishop of Ossory (1393–1397). Also Archbishop
of Dublin and Primate of Ireland from 1395 to his death.
- Thomas Cranley, Primate of Ireland (1401–1410)
- Sir Laurence Merbury, Deputy Chancellor (1403–1410), who exercised the duties of Chancellor while Cranley was too ill to do so.
- Patrick Barrett, Bishop of Ferns (1410–1412)
- Thomas Le Boteller, Prior of Kilmainham. Lord Keeper (1412–1413). The name of his family would change to Butler.
- Thomas Cranley, Primate of Ireland (1413–1417) (second term)
- Sir Laurence Merbury (1417) (second term)
- William Fitz Thomas, Prior of Kilmainham (c. 1417–1418)
- William Yonge, Archdeacon of Meath (c. 1418–1419)
- Richard Talbot, Primate of Ireland (1423–1426)
- William Fitz Thomas (1426) (second term)
- Sir Richard FitzEustace (1426)
- Richard Talbot, Primate of Ireland (1426–1441)
- Thomas Chase (1441–1446)
- Richard Wogan (1446–1449), Lord Chancellor
- Walter Devereux (1449–1451)
- Edmund, Earl of Rutland (1451–1460). Lord Chancellor, a minor who acted through Edmund Oldhall.
- Edmund Oldhall (1451–1454), Bishop of Meath, Deputy Chancellor, who exercised the duties of the office of Chancellor since Rutland was underage
- John Talbot, later 2nd Earl of Shrewsbury (1454–1460). Deputy Chancellor, exercised the duties of the office.
- John Dynham (1460–1461), Lord Chancellor
- Sir William Welles (1461–1462)
- John Tiptoft, 1st Earl of Worcester (1462–1463). By decree of Edward IV of England he held the title of Lord Chancellor for life. He continued receiving the salary of the position and exercising some of its functions until his death in 1470.
- Thomas FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Kildare (c. 1463 – 1468). By decree of Edward IV of England he held the title of Lord Chancellor for life. He continued receiving the salary of the position and exercising some of its functions until his death in 1478.
- Robert Allanstown (1468–1469)
- William Dudley (1469–1472)
- Joint Lord Chancellors of Ireland (1472–1477)
- Gilbert Debenham (1474)
- Rowland FitzEustace, 1st Baron Portlester (1474–1480)
- William Sherwood, Bishop of Meath (1480–1482)
- Walter Champfleur, Abbot of St Mary's Abbey, Dublin (Lord Keeper, or by some accounts Lord
- William Rokeby, Primate of Ireland (1512–1513)
- Sir William Compton (1513–1515)
- William Rokeby, Primate of Ireland (1515–1521). The same as above.
- Hugh Inge, Primate of Ireland (1522–1528)
- John Alen, Primate of Ireland (1528–1532)
- George Cromer, Archbishop of Armagh (1532–1534)
- John Barnewall, 3rd Baron Trimlestown (1534–1538)
- Sir John Alan (1538–1546, 1548–1551). Lord Keeper from 1538 to 1539, Lord Chancellor from 1539 to 1546: removed but later reinstated.
- Sir Thomas Cusack 1 May 1546 (Lord Keeper)
- Sir Richard Reade (6 December 1546 – 1548)
- Sir John Alan (1548–1551)
- Sir Thomas Cusack (1551–1554)
- Sir William Fitzwilliam, Lord Keeper (1554)
- Archbishop Hugh Curwen (1555–1567). Lord Chancellor from 1555 to 1558, Lord Keeper from 1558 to 1559, Lord Chancellor from 1559 to 1567.
- Doctor Robert Weston, Dean of the Arches (1567–1573)
- Archbishop Adam Loftus (Lord Keeper) (1573–1576)
- Sir William Gerard (1576–1581)
- Archbishop Adam Loftus (1581–1605) the same as the above.